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The End of Celebrity Chefs?

After Guy Fieri’s scathing review in the New York Times and with Top Chef entering its 10th season, a strange thing has happened in the world where culinary meets celebrity – the celebrity emphasis on cooking has been dropped. Sure, Anthony Bourdain is rolling out his own show on CNN, but as per usual, the network is late to the party and most fans are miffed that the Discovery Chanel has dropped the travel show for the more consciences Cable News Network. With all the shuffling of major personalities and networks, there’s now an opening for chef’s talents to stand on their own. One great New York chef that shuns the spotlight, more known for his restaurants than his flamboyant personality,  is Andrew Carmellini. He has opened some of the most successful dining establishments in the city without a cult of personality following.

As the times dining section noted last week, Carmellini is better known for his restaurants, The Dutch and Locande Verde, than for his own personality driven branding machine, unlike Tom Collichio or Mario Batalli who have accrued celebrity status first with their restaurants coming second. Other chefs are getting major recognition for their food alone. The ability to specialize in one great dish is also a great coup in today’s ever shifting locavoire market.

Daniel Delaney of Briskettown is a great example of the hustle and ingenuity it takes to shift culinary tastes. After documenting street food with a group of friends and low  budget production staff, he became enamored with brisket following a trip to New Orleans. He built his own smoker on his balcony in Brooklyn and started making his own. Soon he set up Brisketlabs where people came from far and wide to sample his unique cut of meat that is usually served as regional fare in Texas. After building a major following, Delaney opened up a small shop in Williamsburg that is sells brisket by the hundreds of pounds. Still perfecting his art, he says there is always room for improvement. But critics like The New York Time’s Pete Wells, openly agree he’s the “most obsessed pit master in NYC.”

Chefs like Delaney are blowing the lids off of traditional culinary fare. By establishing guerilla dining and street food as authentic cuisine, they are reaching new heights in specialization. While traditional bricks and mortar stores may be the physical manifestation of a chef’s talents, the long journey before that restaurant goes up is often the most surprising and inspiring part of the story.

– Megan Miller

 

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